Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Mad Kestrel by Misty Massey

Mad Kestrel by Misty Massey is a fantasy pirate novel, set in a fictional world that centers on the Nine Islands. Kestrel is a Promise, one who has the potential to use magic. For that reason, the Danisoban mages seek her, so they can take her away to their magical school. Danisobans have a legal monopoly on magic, and one must join them or die. However, the Danisobans have a weakness--seawater. They can't abide it, and they lose their power when they are surrounded by it. Danisoban magic is tied strictly to the land, literally.

Therefore, Kestrel finds her eventual escape at sea. She joins the ship of the surprisingly kindly Artemus Binns, who eventually promotes her to Quartermaster. The rest of the ship's crew seems fine with this . . . or so you think. In the meantime, Kestrel discovers that her power is unaffected by seawater, making the life of a pirate just about perfect for her.

The novel opens when she has a run-in with McAvery, the captain of a huge vessel that can apparently vanish into thin air. He seems like a rogue and to all indications, as the plot progresses, he is a double-dealing scoundrel. Naturally, Kestrel is fascinated by him.

This is all very imaginative and the novel had no trouble holding my attention. However, I had trouble with the actions of the characters. I liked Kestrel well enough, but I never really connected with McAvery. He did a bit of double-crossing that he never explained to my satisfaction. In fact, the various characters are constantly betraying each other--McAvery betrays both Binns and Kestrel; Kestrel does something unforgivable to someone who saved her life, and even Binns betrays Kestrel by sending her to an agent of the king without revealing just what that agent is. And no one seems to hold a grudge with each other for these actions.

One of my favorite characters was the mysterious bounty-hunter Jaeger, who works for the Danisobans. Jaeger has a wicked-cool name and he keeps popping up like a stubborn wart. However, I was really disappointed with the way he was handled in the end--as if he were just another disposable villain. Even if he did live through it--perhaps to pop up in a future book--Kestrel could have handled it smarter. She really had nothing to fear from him, and he could have taught her a great deal.

Except for a naughty kissing scene, Massey kept it clean. In fact, I applaud the author for writing convincingly about pirates without using modern-day swear words. Instead, they use very British swear words that Americans mostly find amusing, such as "bloody", "damn" and even "bloody damn".

There was a strange episode toward the end. After her and McAvery have struck an alliance, she has him chained up while they row to shore. He points out that if she unchains him, he could help her row. She refuses . . . but as soon as she reaches the store, she unchains him and they work together perfectly. I can't for the life of me imagine why he was chained. During the space of time where he was chained, he makes speculations about her that make no sense, because he already knows these things. I kept thinking that I was missing something . . . or that this was something that should have been edited, but was missed.

Although Tor sent me this copy, nothing on it indicates that it is a review copy, subject to further edit. (Most of the review copies I receive are not marked as ARCs.) I received the copy right about the novel's release date. So this discrepancy--if there is one and it's not just me--may be fixed in the final version.

The ending was interesting and action-packed, revolving around something that many true-life pirates were after--the secret to eternal (well, at least extended) life. I keep wondering what Captain Jack Sparrow would have done if he got his hands on such a thing. I didn't hate the ending--except for Jaeger's part in it--but I didn't love it either. It did pave the way for future adventures, while tidying up all plot threads. McAvery got in another good kiss, and Kestrel now has an intriguing new job. Job? What kind of a job might a pirate have? Well I assure you, it's a bit more intriguing than the typical letter of marque that legalizes the actions of a privateer. And it sets a good plot foundation for future novels.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Armed and Magical by Lisa Shearin

Armed & Magical (Amazon UK, Canada)
by Lisa Shearin (website, blog)
Ace Books
Mass-Market Paperback

Ordinary sorceress. Extraordinary power.
Suddenly she's the most popular girl in town.

My name is Raine Benares. Until last week I was a seeker—a finder of things lost and people missing. Now I'm psychic roommates with the Saghred, an ancient stone with cataclysmic powers. Just me, the stone, and all the souls it's ingested over the centuries. Crowded doesn't even begin to describe it...

All Raine wants is her life back—which means getting rid of the stone and the power it possesses. To sort things out, she heads for the Isle of Mid, home to the most prestigious sorcery school, as well as the Conclave, the governing body for all magic users. It's also home to power-grubbing mages who want Raine dead and goblins who see her as a thief. As if that's not enough, Mid's best student spellsingers are disappearing left and right, and Raine's expected to find them.

Lives are at stake, goblins are threatening to sue, mages are getting greedier, and the stone's power is getting stronger by the hour. This could get ugly.

* * *

Wow; I've had to sit on this book for months. They sent out the ARCs really early. However, in the tradition of Fantasy Book Critic, I wanted to post this on the day of the release. I'm a day early.

As I mentioned in last week's Magic Lost, Trouble Found revisit post, Lisa Shearin was my first debut. Well, at least she was my first debut that I wrote about here at Fantasy Debut. Since she's neck-deep in deadline hell, we have postponed the interview that we had planned until sometime in May.

Armed and Magical picks up almost right where Magic Lost, Trouble Found left off. It's a week later and Raine is on the Isle of Mid with her cousin, Phaelan ("He was a pirate. Excuse me, a seafaring businessman."), and the leader of the Conclave Guardians, Mychael ("an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, coated in yum"). Raine's young friend Piaras is also there as a student. He is the most powerful young spellsinger to come along in decades.

I don't know what to make of Piaras. He's way too powerful to be a sidekick. He gives Raine some serious competition power-wise, even with her Saghred-induced "resume enhancement". I like being befuddled like this. I keep wondering if before the series is over, Raine might find herself facing Piaras. It could be heart-wrenching. However, this is all idle speculation. I have no insider knowledge!

As the blurb suggests, the protective Raine finds herself hunting down some missing students. She makes a trip to the library and makes her library-use roll big-time. She finds a tiny, almost unimportant-looking volume that turns out to be a journal of sorts, and the author is mighty interesting. Naturally, getting out of the library with the book is a lot more interesting than going in. Raine really can't go anywhere without running into excitement.

Remember Sarad Nukpana, the power-mad sorcerer who tried to get his hands on the Saghred in the first book? Well, now that he's safely nestled inside the Saghred, they've become bosom buddies. And he's anything but neutralized.

At my year-end post on my favorites of 2007, I named Raine as my favorite female character. In this novel, Raine is a bit darker and a bit snarkier. She's still every bit as protective over those younger and/or weaker than she, so you still gotta love her. Still, the novel reads, very subtly, as if the Saghred is affecting her personality. In fact, it is so subtle that I applaud the author. There's no overt struggle, no in-your-face "Give yourself to the dark side, Raine" (although Sarad Nukpana does get cocky a time or two).

The love triangle between Raine, Mychael and Raine's ex-boyfriend Tam continues to develop. Considering the compressed timeframe of these two novels, it's good that Shearin has not taken it too far. After all, in novel-time, only two weeks (or so) have passed. Raine is attracted to Tam and Mychael for different reasons. Tam has some fascinating developments that the reader (me) and Raine both should have seen coming, but did not. And there is some truly wicked kissing going on between them. Mychael gets his kiss in as well, and it ain't no good-boy kiss.

The hilarious situations continue and are one-upped. Raine's magic has grown so powerful that it often works much better than she expects, with sometimes-hilarious results. I don't want to give it away because it is so funny, but there is one scene where Raine disguises herself that had me rolling with laughter.

This followup does not disappoint. It continues to be as fun as the first novel, with lots of "how the heck is Raine going to get out of this" moments. It's a fast read with a lively conclusion that again points the reader to the next volume, The Trouble with Demons.

* * *
Lisa is very active on her blog, and posts a lot of writing-related posts along with reports on her novel-in-progress. Sometimes, her posts even have teasers! Also, here is a Q&A with Lisa by her publisher.

Quick Post . . .

. . . to say that I'm not dead. I was a bit under-the-weather since Thursday, and I only answered blog comments. I'm feeling much better now!

Later tonight, I'll put up my thoughts on Lisa Shearin's Armed and Magical, which officially releases tomorrow. After that, I have a few more reviews to put up (one already written, but I felt too icky to post it), plus I'm lining up some author interviews. Since there were so many new debuts in the past three months and since I read so abysmally slowly, I thought I'd make up for it by doing interviews and maybe inviting some authors to do guest posts.

Blogger In Draft has some new gizmos I can try too, and if I find an author that is adventurous enough, I may try to line up an Author Chat!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Lisa Shearin's Cyber-Launch Book Party!

Kimber An is throwing a Cyber-Launch Book Party for Lisa Shearin's Armed and Magical today. Don't know what a Cyber-Launch Book Party is? Pop over to Enduring Romance and find out. It starts at 6:00 AM Alaska time and runs 24 hours.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Romance vs. Love Stories in SF and Fantasy

Yes . . . it's time for one of my Wednesday Rambles. This is almost becoming a regular feature here.

I've been ruminating on romance in fantasy vs. love stories. For the record, my own interpretation of the difference between a romance and a love story is this: for romances, the focus is on sex and sexual attraction. For love stories, the focus is on the growing love between the characters. So to me, the difference is time. If the relationship grows over time, it's a love story. If there's immediate sexual attraction and they jump into bed fairly quickly, it's a romance.

You may think I'm wrong. Keep in mind, this is just the way I categorize things.

When I started writing this post, I thought I was going to say that I have seen more romance than love stories in the past year. However, as I looked over all my reviews, I've discovered that my initial impression is wrong. By the above definition, there are certainly more love stories than romance in the novels I've read. In fact, when I look at all the debuts, the only "romance" I find is in Karma Girl. And in that novel, it was perfectly appropriate--and downright funny--the way the author wrote it.

However, in general, I prefer love stories. In The Outback Stars, the feelings between Jodenny and Terry gradually deepened, and the sexual energy between them gradually tightened until it was taut as a piano wire. In the novel I just finished, Mad Kestrel (review coming soon!) the author handled it the way Lisa Shearin handled her romance in Magic Lost, Trouble Found--things never got past some naughty kissing. I generally enjoy it when the author drags things out. It took four novels for Stephanie and Joe to get . . . er . . . together in the Stephanie Plum novels. If it hadn't taken four novels, we never would have had the hilarious Buick Necking Scene, which was simply unforgettable.

Still, one cannot call Stephanie and Joe's relationship a profound love story. Especially when you throw Ranger into the mix. So it turns out that my definition doesn't really hold water. But most of the time, it works for me.

What were your favorite fantasy or science fiction love stories?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Magic Lost, Trouble Found - Revisited!

Back when I first started this blog, I covered Lisa Shearin's debut, MAGIC LOST, TROUBLE FOUND. In fact, her novel was the book that inspired me to finally get off my duff and start this blog, which had been a seed germinating in my mind for months. Since I had hardly any visitors back then, I thought I'd kick off Lisa Shearin week here at Fantasy Debut with some excerpts from my as-I-read-it review of MAGIC LOST, TROUBLE FOUND. Here's the first one.

* * *
I found that it took a few pages for the story to suck me in, but it did. Raine--the half-elven main character--is loyal and protective over her friends. She is concerned for society as a whole when she learns that a group of baddies wants this amulet. I detect a strong Janet Evanovich influence. I would be very surprised if the author had not read the Stephanie Plum series. However, Raine is no Stephanie Plum--she can handle some tough situations.

One thing that I absolutely got a kick out of was the sexy goblins. Who knew goblins could be sexy? Shearin's goblins are tall, thin and elf-like, except for the gray skin and the fangs. They apparently have this dangerous appeal, and so there are lots of half-goblins running around. In fact, I think it might have been fun to make Raine half-goblin, rather than half-elf.
* * *

It amuses me to read this again. Half-goblin indeed! I did turn out to be right about Lisa reading Stephanie Plum. Here's an excerpt from the next post.

* * *
I picked this book up for odd ten and twenty minute intervals throughout the day. New characters are popping up like daisies. There is this mysterious Guardian character who seems to be some sort of elven hottie who also happens to command a platoon of other Guardians. There his Raine's uncle and his student, who is a sort of kid-brother type to Raine.

She's also in touch with this elven intelligence network, which I find intriguing.
* * *

At this point in my blogging, Lisa Shearin popped in to leave some comments. I don't know why this was so unexpected--I should have realized that authors Google their own works. I guess I didn't expect this blog to appear anywhere on the first page of the Google search results. She was my very first commentator on this blog, which is fitting, in my opinion. It was also a huge thrill!

I went back and counted--I put up eleven posts on MAGIC LOST, TROUBLE FOUND! This blog had absolutely no content other than Lisa's novel. Nowadays, I feel like I'm losing my blogging audience if I put up more than three posts on my reading progress for any one novel.

Here are some highlights from the remaining posts:
* * *

Chapter Five was meaty with information. I finally know how old Raine is. I hate it when authors refuse to give an exact age for their character. Raine discovers several nasty things about the amulet, which by now she is quite stuck with. And the hottie elf Guardian tried to cast a spell on her.

Oh, and did I mention that she kicked him in the nether regions when they first encountered each other? There's nothing like first impressions!

* * *

I had a laugh-out-loud moment when a police-officer type called for a "containment box" to hold a suspicious magic item. How many D&D gamer types would have loved to had containment boxes when transporting dangerous artifacts? I know that Frodo would have loved to have one. Temptations from the One Ring? No problem! I've got this handy little box here in my Bag of Holding!

* * *

The title of this book so fits. Trouble Finder would be an apt nickname for Raine. She's just taken a decadent bath and she went out looking for trouble . . . and naturally, she found even more trouble than she expected.

* * *

Long ago, I read that a good story plunges the hero against "almost insuperable odds". Shearin has mastered this advice. Her story may be light, but what Raine faces is not. It was a good dash of sobriety, yet still she maintains her lighthearted tone.

It reminded me of the First Crusade. During the First Crusade, the crusaders found this spear that grew to be a legend. It was said to be the spear that had pierced the side of Christ. The legend grew and the crusaders went absolutely bananas over it. Why? Study your history, because I don't want to give too much of the plot away. (I'll give you a hint. The spear was found in Antioch.)

* * *

The book ended in a satisfying smart way. It was the kind of ending that I like. No magical brawls, which I find tedious. Just one character outsmarting another. It was not a cliffhanger, but it definitely points the reader squarely toward book two.

I can see myself rereading this book, because I think this is the sort of book that will present "nuances" to the reader upon rereading. And of course, I'll want to read it again when book 2 comes out.

* * *
I actually did read most of it again, between books, for the last three months. I still have about an eighth of an inch to go, but I felt I had read enough to be able to read Armed and Magical. Some of those promised nuances did came out during the rereading, especially early in the story when Mychael, the Guardian, was casting a spell on her. I'm a great fan of rereading novels, but I haven't had the opportunity to do much rereading since starting this blog!

Feel like reading all eleven posts? Here's a handy link. It brings up a bunch of other stuff too, so just scroll down.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Debut Showcase: Night Life by Caitlin Kittredge

Night Life (Nocturne City, Book 1) (Amazon UK, Canada)
by Caitlin Kittredge (website, blog)
St. Martin's
Mass Market Paperback

Welcome to Nocturne City, where werewolves, black magicians, and witches prowl the streets at night… Among them is Luna Wilder, a tough-as-nails police officer whose job is to keep the peace. As an Insoli werewolf, Luna travels without a pack and must rely on instinct alone. And she’s just been assigned to find the ruthless killer behind a string of ritualistic murders—a killer with ties to an escaped demon found only in legend…until now.

But when she investigates prime suspect Dmitri Sandovsky, she can’t resist his wolfish charms. Pack leader of a dangerous clan of Redbacks, Dimitri sends her animal instincts into overdrive and threatens her fiercely-guarded independence. But Luna and Dimiri will need to rely on each other as they’re plunged into an ancient demon underworld and pitted against an expert black magician with the power to enslave them for eternity…

This was a missed debut from March. I combed Locus's listings, but cannot find any others. I guess everyone released this season's debuts in February. Kittredge has some nice publicity for her novel, including a Big Idea post over at Scalzi's Whatever, and a Dear Author review.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Griffin's Daughter by Leslie Ann Moore

I actually finished this novel about two weeks ago, and I intended to post on it when Raven had finished with Truancy, but life got in the way last week, so here I am.

The later middle part of Griffin's Daughter seemed to suffer from a lack of direction. Before, Jelena had been focused on the goal of finding her elven father, but she became sidetracked when she met a cute elf, a lord's younger son named Ashinji. Since elves don't approve of marriage between a half-breed (Jelena) and a true elf (Ashinji), they are kept apart. It has all the makings of a great love story, but the big reason it didn't work for me was the vast age difference between Jelena and her love. She's only 18 and he's in his 30s. (I know, I know--Jane Austen did this in Sense and Sensibility. But ya know, it didn't really work for me there either, even though the Colonel is one of my favorite Austen heroes. But I digress.) Part of this can be accounted for by the long life-span of elves. Perhaps mentally, he is only 25 or so. However, presumably Jelena will have a longer lifespan as well, since she is half-elven.

Anyway, that's the only real problem I had with the love story, and it is probably mostly a matter of personal taste. And despite my problems with it, I really liked the way it worked out in the end.

After a digression with Jelena's cousin and traveling companion Magnes going off and doing some very unexpected things, the story came back to Jelena and found direction once again. The Dark Lord from the prelude begins to become quite active, acting through animal surrogates. I don't want to give the ending away, but it was fairly satisfying, insofar as the first novel of a trilogy can ever be satisfying. Moore has obviously thought things through and has set the stage well for future books.

Except for some sex scenes, this novel almost seemed like a young adult novel. Moore has a natural flair for language. Her work comes across as literary without being affected, and is highly readable. I would definitely be interested in reading her future works.

Here is my first Post and my second Post on Griffin's Daughter.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Random Updates

I'm back from a rather tough week with some sad events at home. Our little kitty died. She had developed renal failure due to her advanced old age. We got her in 1990 as a young adult cat, so we aren't sure how old she was. (She was a pound kitty.)

I did get caught up on some reading. (Do you turn to books during sad times?) I finished Griffin's Daughter while Raven was blogging last week, and I'll put up my review in the next few days. This week, I got 3/4th of the way through Mad Kestrel.

Next week, I'll be doing something a bit different. Rather than a Featured Debut, I'll have a Featured Author. Lisa Shearin, the author of my very first Featured Debut, has her second book come out on April 29th. During the week leading up to it, I'll revisit her first novel, Magic Lost, Trouble Found, and on Release Day I'll put up a post on her second novel, Armed and Magical. In between, I'll do other fun things. Don't expect impartial reviews--I like Lisa entirely too much to be able to look on her work with an unbiased eye.

After that, I am going to purchase The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, which recently came out in paperback. During my recent post on character development novels, it came up as an good example of such a novel, and I feel quite remiss that I have not read it yet.

Speaking of old posts, I came across a post via Sandra McDonald's blog entitled, How to Kill Off a Sense of Wonder. I found it interesting, but I still kind of enjoy the mundane presented as commonplace. For me, there is a sense of wonder in that, but I can understand how it can get old if you read a lot of the same sort of books. That's why I like to shake things up and randomize the subgenres that I read.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Truancy: Final Review

Raven concludes her review of Truancy by Isamu Fukui.

* * *

Now that I've finished Truancy, I have to say I hesitate to recommend it 100%. I still love the setting, this dystopian society centered around an oppressive school system (what can I say, I hated school). I was impressed with the characterization (with one exception), and I particularly liked the characters of Umasi, a pacifist who refuses to side with either the Truants or the Educators, and Zyid, leader of the student rebellion known as the Truancy. I thought they were masterfully portrayed as individuals with deeply-held beliefs, and their relationship with one another was also very well done. I liked that Isamu Fukui didn't hold back with these characters but put them in situations where their beliefs would be tested.

The story remained simple, but as I mentioned before, there were many facets to each side in the overall struggle between Truants and Educators. Neither side was portrayed as all bad or all good, although the Truants were clearly better than the Educators. But on both sides everyone had his or her own agenda, which sometimes clashed with the larger agenda. Fukui switches point of view a lot, taking readers into the heads of people on both sides (and into Umasi's head as well), so we get a rounded picture of all the action and what everyone is doing. The political and personal aspects of the story were nicely intertwined.

For most of the time I was reading the book, I was prepared to give it a solid recommendation. Granted, there were a few weak spots here and there. Fukui's narrative style includes a lot of varied dialogue tags (observed, agreed, declared) and a lot of adverbs. What I found was that during the tense moments these didn't bother me because I was so focused on the story, but during scenes with less conflict they tended to stand out and sound awkward. And certain scenes involving Tack (the main character) and his sister came across as overly peaceful and conflict-free (I don't want to say boring, because they weren't, but they were a little too rosy). However, I eventually realized what these scenes had been setting up, so I was prepared to forgive Fukui for including them.

Another thing I was prepared to forgive was the somewhat flat main character. Tack has great motivations for everything he does, and he's a good person who wants to do what's right even if he sometimes fails to do so, but ultimately he didn't quite click as a character. He was less interesting than Umasi, Zyid, or even the Mayor of the City.

But even this wouldn't have stopped me from giving Truancy a wholehearted recommendation. What changed my mind was the ending, which I found dissatisfying. Although Tack's plotline was resolved, Fukui left dangling several fascinating mysteries about Umasi and Zyid. Considering these characters' central role in the story and the way information about them had been steadily doled out as the story progressed, I felt Fukui had created an expectation that these mysteries would be resolved by the end. When they weren't, I felt cheated, especially because they had been a large part of what kept me turning the pages. It's also difficult to fully understand the story's world and these characters' motivations without knowing their complete history. A prequel called Truancy Origins will be coming out and should answer these questions, but I couldn't see any reason for Fukui not to resolve them in this book (incidentally, Fukui also has a third book planned; this information is on the Truancy website at

Besides this, the pacing in the last two chapters seemed to be off, and the focus shifted from the political story to one specific personal story instead of keeping them intertwined and balanced as Fukui had successfully done until then. Twenty-five pages were devoted to resolving one key relationship, and although it was an important one, I felt the other aspects of the story suffered as a result. The tone also changed, becoming more sentimental. Finally, Fukui seemed to be straining to make the point that violence isn't the answer. That conclusion didn't feel completely organic to the plot.

My ultimate verdict? I really enjoyed this book up until the last two chapters. I'll be reading Truancy Origins when it comes out. But I still have reservations about Truancy based on the ending. You've been warned.

Award News

The Science Fiction Awards Watch managed to get hold of the complete list of the Compton Crook Award nominees for best new fantasy, science fiction or horror novel. The nominees are:

  • The Blade Itself, Joe Abercombie (Pyr)
  • The Outback Stars, Sandra McDonald (Tor)
  • The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss (DAW)
  • Magic Lost, Trouble Found, Lisa Shearin (Ace)
  • One Jump Ahead, Mark Van Name (Baen)

Several debut novels that I announced made the Gaylactic Spectrum Awards list, and they are:

  • Hero by Perry Moore (Hyperion)
  • One For Sorrow by Christopher Barzak (Bantam)
  • Spaceman Blues: A Love Song by Brian Francis Slattery (Tor)

Congrats to all the nominees; this must be a huge thrill for a debut novelist.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

A Genre Break - Duty and Desire

Have you ever read the second book in a trilogy, not really like it, but still intend to purchase the third book on the strength of the first book? That's how I feel about Duty and Desire, the second installment of the Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman series. It's a retelling of Pride and Prejudice from Darcy's point of view.

I've lost track of how many times I've read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I read it at least once a year. It's just plain good storytelling. When I first heard about this trilogy, I thought to myself, "Oh, the three books will probably coincide with the three major settings." Therefore, I envisioned Book One to take place in Hertfordshire, Book Two to take place at Rosings, and Book Three to take place at Pemberley and beyond. Book Three would surely be filled with adventure, because that's when Darcy goes after Wickham. When reading P&P, the reader is stuck at home with the Bennett girls, and they have no idea what is going on until long after it happened.

Unfortunately, Duty and Desire does not take place at Rosings. It takes place during a timespan that Jane Austen jumped over, and imagines Darcy involved in all sorts of things that Austen never even hinted at in even her most scandalous novel, Mansfield Park (which, in a twist only possible in novels by Austen, is also her most prim novel). The end of the novel looks forward to the upcoming trip to Rosings. Elizabeth Bennett does not appear in this novel, except in Darcy's thoughts.

The novel begins well enough, with Darcy at home with is sister Georgiana. I really enjoyed what Aiden did with Georgiana. Georgiana is a character often spoken of in Pride and Prejudice, but rarely seen. Her and her companion, Mrs. Annesley, is seen often around Pemberly and are more than bit players. Georgiana still drives her brother nuts, but in a good way now. He doesn't like the idea of her visiting the poor every Sunday, but he can hardly fault her for that. And he is shocked when she wants to send an annual stipend to a Society that supports unwed mothers. These are all things designed to make you love a character. However, I wasn't too fond of what Aiden did with Col. Fitzwilliam, Darcy's cousin (who has the same last name as Darcy's first name). Col. Fitzwilliam was rather more dissapated than the Col. Fitzwilliam of P&P, which I didn't get any hint of in Jane Austen's original. Aiden also threw in a d'Arcy, Fitzwilliam's older brother, who really didn't add anything to the story.

The latter half of the book is where I ran into trouble. During this period, Darcy is staying with an old school friend, who now runs with a rather rough crowd, and who seems intent on gambling away his entire fortune. I think it was a mistake to involve Darcy in the "steamy underside" of British society. Just as it's possible to completely avoid the steamy underside of today's world (which I manage quite well), I think it is entirely possible for Darcy to avoid the steamy underside of society life. And that's what I think he would have done. To every indication in Pride and Prejudice, Darcy was an upright man, as full of morals and convictions as you can get while still being as fascinating as he is. (Another character, Collins, explores the extreme where it gets ridiculous.) Austen also never hinted at gatherings where the men adjourned to a gambling parlor for the night. The playing of cards took place in mixed company.

And the idea of Darcy willing to gamble another man out of house and fortune simply to get his hands on his fine Spanish sword? Simply repellent.

I highly enjoyed most of the first book in the series, An Assembly Such as This, and I certainly will purchase the final volume, These Three Remain. However, if you are interested in this series, you probably won't miss out on much by skipping the second book, altogether.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Because Others Have Much Better Content Ideas Tonight

Chris ventures into science over at The Book Swede.

Katie is hosting an "Agent Pick-Up Line Contest". She'll buy you a paperback if she judges you as the winner. Ignore my lame entry.

Graeme is giving away some copies of Reaper's Gale by Steven Erikson.

John asks, would you wear this? I would, but not during muggy Florida summers.

Kimber has a review of Goblin Quest, where she hilariously compares Jim Hines goblins to Lisa Shearin's.

Larry returns to his childhood, and then takes a bit of it into his classroom.

Laura Benedict discusses the dangers of filling in the blanks on the stories you see playing out around you every day.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Truancy: Hard to Put Down

Raven continues her review of Truancy.

Truancy is shaping up to be a quick read that's difficult to put down. I fully intended to stop exactly in the middle to write my mid-read update, but I don't have a lot of self-control, so I kept reading "just one more chapter," and lo and behold I'm now more than two-thirds done.

Fukui has come up with some fascinating characters. The best are the ones with secrets. There's one set of secrets in particular that's being slowly revealed as I move through the book, and I'm dying to know the full truth. Fukui's good at doling out information piece by piece, leaving readers (this reader, at least) eager for more. And turning the page to find out more.

There's a larger secret too, the secret of what the setting for the story - this experimental City run by Educators - really is and what its real purpose is. I'm not sure if that mystery will be resolved by the end or not, but I'm guessing it will.

The story itself is still a simple one, oppressors versus oppressed, but it's not simplistic. Neither side is all bad or all good. Of course, the main character, Tack, has his own personal struggle going on in the midst of this larger story. I'm interested to see how his struggle will be resolved and what impact it will have on the larger, more political story.

I think it's time to pick up the book again and read "just one more chapter."

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Personal Demons by Stacia Kane

Personal Demons (Amazon UK)
by Stacia Kane (aka December Quinn) (blog)
Juno Books
Mass Market Paperback

Megan promises listeners to her new radio call-in show that she'll "slay their personal demons," and they believe her. So do the personal demons. Although she doesn't know it, Megan is the only human without a personal demon on her shoulder. This, coupled with her psychic abilities, makes her a valuable weapon for any demon "family" that can gain her allegiance. It also makes her a serious threat -- not just to the personal demons, but to a soul-sucker known as The Accuser who has an old score to settle. Megan and her allies -- a demon lover who both protects and seduces her with devilish intensity, a witch with poor social skills, and three cockney guard demons -- have to deal not only The Accuser, the personal demons, and the ghosts of Megan's past, but a reporter who threatens to destroy Megan's career.

I knew it! I knew I first read about this novel on Miss Snark's last hook contest! Here's the hook! And here's the opening that Miss Snark critiqued. It worked for Miss Snark and apparently it worked for Paula Guran of Juno Books as well. It's fabulous to see an author from that contest do well. I was also delighted to find that this author is someone else I know of from Absolute Write. She has published in other genres as December Quinn, and as far as I can tell, this is her first mainstream fantasy. This cover is a new look for Juno Books, and I find it quite effective. Scooper did a review of it last month and she really enjoyed it.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Truancy - Initial Impressions

Raven is reviewing Truancy by Isamu Fukui this week. Here is the official blurb:

In an alternate world, in a nameless totalitarian city, the autocratic Mayor rules the school system with an iron fist, with the help of his Educators. Fighting against the Mayor and his repressive Educators is a group of former students called the Truancy, whose goal is to take down the system by any means possible—at any cost.

Against this backdrop, fifteen-year-old Tack is just trying to survive. His days are filled with sadistic teachers, unrelenting schoolwork, and indifferent parents. Things start to look up when he meets Umasi, a mysterious boy who runs a lemonade stand in an uninhabited district.

Then someone close to Tack gets killed in the crossfire between the Educators and the Truants, and Tack swears vengeance. To achieve his purpose, he abandons his old life and joins the Truancy. There, he confronts Zyid, an enigmatic leader with his own plans for Tack. But Tack soon finds himself torn between his desire for vengeance and his growing sympathy for the Truants….
I'm only about three or four chapters into Truancy, by Isamu Fukui, but I can already see why this book has the potential to become a cult classic among young people, especially high school students. In a city run by oppressive Educators, students struggle to keep their heads above water while dealing with teachers whose primary goal is to trample them down. It reminds me of my own schooldays!

Actually, I'm not joking. The book has the ring of truth. Of course, the situation in the book is exaggerated, but it feels very real. Anyone who's had bad experiences in school will be able to relate to this story. I'm sure it helps that it was written by someone in the educational system (Fukui is in high school). I'm just wondering whether his teachers have blacklisted him.

Fukui has stated that part of his goal in writing this book was to show that violence isn't the answer. Well, currently some of the characters are pretty convinced that violence is the answer, so I'm interested to see how Fukui twists the story and proves them wrong. Initially the book seems as if it could be a standard "rebels fighting oppressor" story set in an education-centered world (the rebels are young people appropriately known as the Truancy), but I don't think it's going to be standard. We'll see.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Debut Author Catch-Up

I haven't done an Author Catch-Up in ages, so let's see what some of those debut authors are up to.


Here are the nominees for the John W. Campbell Award:

Joe Abercrombie (2nd year of eligibility)
Jon Armstrong (1st year of eligibility)
David Anthony Durham (1st year of eligibility)
David Louis Edelman (2nd year of eligibility)
Mary Robinette Kowal (2nd year of eligibility)
Scott Lynch (2nd year of eligibility)

(Thanks to David Anthony Durham, whose blog I gratuitously lifted this from.)

Of all of the above, I've only covered David, which is the only of the above novels that came out since I started Fantasy Debut. (By the way, Acacia is now out in Germany; that's the cover to the right. I just love it!) As I poked around on Jon Armstrong's site, I discovered that his novel, Grey, is also nominated for the Philip K. Dick award.

Emily Gee's Thief with No Shadow is a finalist for the RITA Best First Book award, which is the award of the Romance Writers of America. (Hat tip: Amanda Ashby, who keeps me up-to-date on all things Emily.)

Spaceman Blues, A Love Song by Brian Francis Slattery has been nominated for the Lambda Literary Award.

Sandra McDonald has announced on her blog that her novel, The Outback Stars, has been nominated for the Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Award for Best New Novel. I hinted at this award a few weeks ago. Another novelist told me that her novel was nominated; let me check her blog to see if she's made it public . . . nope! I'd better keep her secret a while longer.

Thanks to Science Fiction Awards Watch for most of the above info. I found this site while browsing today and I'm adding it to my Google Reader right . . . now.

Release News

Lisa Shearin has lots of stuff going on. Check it out. Her second novel, Armed and Magical, comes out on the 29th of this month. Read the synopsis. Read the first three chapters. Buy it. She's also doing a contest every weekend for the rest of the month where she's giving away signed copies of Magic Lost, Trouble Found. You can read the details here, but what the heck; here they are:

Since some of you have read your copies of Magic Lost, Trouble Found multiple times, I thought I'd give you all a chance to replace it with a brand new, signed and personalized copy. It's only another four weeks until Armed & Magical hits bookstore shelves, so each of those weeks I'll be giving away a copy of MLTF and other book goodies. Just send me an email at with "MLTF contest" in the subject line and you'll be entered to win. The winning names will be drawn on the next four Saturdays. You only have to enter once to be eligible for each week's drawing.

I plan on posting my review of Armed and Magical shortly before it comes out.

Sandra McDonald's second novel, The Stars Down Under, is now out in hardcover. I have a copy, so I'll post my thoughts on it as soon as I have read it.

Nathalie Mallet's follow up to The Princes of the Golden Cage is also due out soon; the title of that one is The King's Daughters and it comes out on July 1.

That's all the juicy news I know about for now. Unfortunately (or fortunately) so many new authors came out in February that their names and novels haven't settled into the cracks of my brain yet. However, since they are so new, I assume they're still basking in their novel publications to be up to anything else quite as exciting.

* * *

Raven and I have worked out our review schedules. She is going to cover Truancy this week, and I'll cover Mad Kestrel as soon as she's done. In fact, I already have Raven's first installment, and I'll post it tomorrow evening.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

At the Movies: Enchanted

A couple of weeks ago, on the very day of the release, my husband bought Enchanted for my daughter. Well, actually he bought it for me. But now my daughter has appropriated it.

Enchanted is about Giselle (Amy Adams of Junebug), a maiden from the animated magic kingdom of Andalasia, and her adventures in New York City. It starts with a super-sappy beginning similar to The Little Mermaid's statue scene, where Giselle has made a statue of her dream prince out of various odds and ends. All she lacks are lips. Therefore, she summons her animal friends with the power of her voice, and they all come help her solve the Lip Dilemma.

If it sounds sappy, you're right. It's sappy syrup poured on as thick as liquid concrete. And it's supposed to be that way.

All the while, she's singing about finding her true love. Cut to Prince Edward (James Marsden of the X-Men movies), who has just captured a giant troll. He hears her voice (a la Sleeping Beauty) and he goes off in search of her. So does the troll. At length, Giselle falls into Edward's arms and it's instantaneous love.

Or so they think.

After the evil granny from Snow White--who is actually the evil queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon)--pushes Giselle down a well, Giselle clambers out of a manhole in New York City. And the adventure begins when she meets divorce lawyer Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his young daughter, Morgan (Rachael Covey).

The highlights of the film are the over-the-top songs. Disney spoofs itself throughout the entire film. Since I have a young daughter, I'm quite familiar with all the Disney movies. Readily identifiable were spoofs on Snow White (the Happy Working Song), Cinderella (the bubble scene), and Beauty and the Beast (Giselle running through a grassy field). And those are just the spoofs from the musical numbers. However, these scenes are like Easter eggs. I think you could enjoy the movie just fine without an encyclopedic knowledge of Disney flicks.

For me, Marsden stole the show from Dempsey. I watched him during the X-Men movies, where he played Scott Summers, a tightly-controlled character. In Enchanted, he flung off all restraint. Who knew he could sing? He leaps, he prances, he slays a bus. The best scene is where Nathaniel (Timothy Spall, who played Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter movies), a gardner back in Andalasia and a not-so-typical evil henchman, ask Prince Edward if he likes himself. Edward merely smiles and says, "What's not to like?" And he's right. Edward is somewhat dense and full of himself, but thoroughly likable.

Dempsey plays an understated character next to all these animations-come-to-life. His best scene is when Edward asks him if he has any last words while brandishing a sword at his throat. Robert says, "You have GOT to be kidding." Edward is perplexed and says, "Strange words." Well, maybe that wasn't his best scene, but I don't want to give it all away.

My daughter has watched this movie over and over, and my husband sat down and watched it with her yesterday. Even he liked it, and horror movies like 28 Days are usually more to his taste. It has a lot of humor that grown-ups can enjoy, and the syrupy sappy parts are so ridiculous that they will make you burst out laughing.

Go out and rent it, or buy it like we did. It's great fun.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Debut Showcase: Starsight by Minnette Meador

Starsight (Amazon UK, Canada)
by Minnette Meador Publishing
Trade Paperback

Trenara never thought she would have to guide a student she loved to become a messiah, but it is the only way this second trial Starguider can salvage her world. Torn between her devotion to Joshan and the fate of her kind, Trenara struggles against accusations of murder, the onset of war, and the loss of her faith in gods who have turned their backs on her. The only people she can trust to help them are two war-ravaged heroes; the boy’s life-long trainer and an old sea captain everyone thought was a ghost. Their only weapon, a ten-year-old boy who wakes one morning to find his childhood gone and his hands filled with a power he couldn't possibly understand--or control. Together they must destroy a psychotic enemy and a religious order that has been running the Imperium for a thousand years; a system they have all taken vows to protect.

I've never heard of this publisher before, but what caught my eye is the author had managed to snag some blurbs by Spider Robinson and Piers Anthony. Although this is technically a POD novel, it is only 14.95, the same as many other trade paperbacks, and it's even cheaper on Amazon. The author's blog is fed into the Amazon book page.